Black Christian anti-Semitism: a sad irony

Hey, Movement For Black Lives: did you forget, or did you just not know?

 

“…salvation is from the Jews.”

Words of Jesus as found in John 4:22

“When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

I am Black. I am Christian. I am pro-Israel. I’m also a member of the anti-Semitism committee of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers in Chicago, Illinois. My comments however, are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers. Several months ago, The Movement For Black Lives (one of the umbrella groups of Black Lives Matter), condemned Israel, by comparing her to apartheid South Africa.  I can’t allow the anti-Semitic stance of The Movement For Black Lives to go unchallenged. I’m growing increasingly alarmed at the Christian community’s selective memory. The Christian community in general, and Black Christians in particular, should be more circumspect before we condemn our historical friends and allies-the Jewish people-, who have themselves been the victims of discrimination for thousands of years.  I can only imagine that the members of The Movement For Black Lives have either forgotten much history, or they were unaware of it in the first place.

Not only does The Movement For Black Lives’ position defy logic and sound moral judgment, it violates one of the basic tenets of good relationships between any two people or groups: Dance with the one that brung ya’. Notwithstanding some tension between the Black and Jewish communities, Jews have been disproportionately supportive of Black strides for equal rights. From the founding of the NAACP, to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, to Black Lives Matter of today, many Jews have spoken out loudly and boldly against racism. Some did so even at great personal sacrifice. Has The Movement For Black Lives forgotten about all that? Did you forget about Andrew Goodman- one of three civil rights activists who was murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964? Did you forget about Rabbi Abraham Heschel,- who marched along side Dr. King and later presented Dr. King with the Judaism And World Peace Award in 1965. Did you forget, or did you just not know? Did you forget that Dr. King himself was a Zionist, or did you just not know? Have you forgotten that for those of us who are Christian, our Lord and Savior-Jesus Christ-was Jewish, and that He taught that salvation comes from the Jews? Did you forget, or did you just not know? Have you forgotten that the very word “ghetto”, which is now used to describe poor Black neighborhoods, was first used to describe European neighborhoods where Jews were confined and forced to live in squalor? Did you forget, or did you just not know? Have you forgotten that among Israel’s staunchest enemies are those who believe in theocracy, not democracy? Did you forget, or did you just not know? Have you forgotten that prior to Israel becoming an official Jewish state in 1948, that the Jewish National Fund spent years raising money and bought land in Israel at inflated prices from opportunistic landowners? Did you forget, or did you just not know?

Singling Israel out for criticism is grossly unfair. Racism is an unfortunate reality worldwide. It exists among all religious groups. That includes Jews, many of whom at one point questioned the Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews who wanted to immigrate to Israel. In fact, Black Jews in Israel still complain of racism today. But are the Catholics any less racist than Jews? What about mainstream White Christians?   Bob Jones University (a well-known fundamentalist protestant university in South Carolina) had an official policy prohibiting interracial dating on campus. That policy remained in place until 2000.   What about Muslims, are they free from racial bigotry? Did you forget that the Prophet Mohammad rebuked his followers for their racism against one of Prophet Mohammad’s most beloved followers-Bilal, who was a Black Ethiopian?   Did you forget, or did you just not know? Criticizing some specific act or policy of Israel is fair game. Of course, if one criticizes a specific Israeli policy, then one can reasonably be asked to offer an alternative policy that would not leave Israel defenseless against its enemies. But to accuse Israel of engaging in systemic discrimination against Palestinians and illegally occupying Palestine, without considering the reality of Israel’s vulnerability in the region, is one-sided and unfair.

Every nation has shortcomings, including America. But if we’re going to criticize one nation for its excesses, then let’s apply the same standards to all nations, rather than single out Israel for condemnation. Consider that Israel is surrounded by enemies and has been at constant war for its very survival since its inception. No nation at war can defend itself by following the same rules it follows when at peace. During our own Civil War, President Lincoln famously suspended the writ of habeas corpus, even after the US Supreme Court ruled his actions were unconstitutional. During WWII, America denied basic due process to over a hundred thousand Japanese-Americans by forcing them into internment camps. We finally apologized to those Japanese-Americans –over 40 years later, after many of them had died. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor ( a US Navy base), America responded by dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the 9/11 attacks, America engaged in some practices that alarmed those concerned with civil liberties. Our government labeled people enemy combatants and detained them indefinitely without charging them with a crime and without letting them get an attorney. We did this after being attacked by terrorists on one day. One day. Israel lives under the constant menace of terrorism every day.  All nations will at times, go to extremes when they’re at war. Even the great Nelson Mandela accepted aid from the tyrannical leaders of Cuba, Iran and Libya in his fight against apartheid. Because that’s what people do when they’re under attack and fighting for their lives. They do what is necessary to survive. That’s what every nation does. Israel has as much right to defend itself as every other nation does. Did you forget that, or did you just not know? Or, do you just not care?

About the Author
Patrick D. John is a Black Christian attorney living and working in Chicago, IL. He is a member of Chicago's Decalogue Society of Lawyers, and serves on its anti-Semitism committee. He believes that Christians should embrace the Jewishness of Jesus and speak up against anti-Semitism. He grew up for several years in Brooklyn, NY and completed his undergraduate education at the City College of NY in Harlem, where he majored in Urban Legal Studies and minored in Black Studies. Patrick is originally from Guyana, South America, a place of great religious diversity. Guyana celebrates the major religions of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Guyana's first female president was Jewish--Janet Jagan (f/k/a Janet Rosenberg).
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